Province unveils new healthcare plan
Today the province introduced a program called Your Health: A Plan for Connected and Convenient Care. The province says the plan connects patients to more convenient options closer to home, shortens wait times for key services across the province, and grows the health care workforce.
Deputy Premier and Minister of Health, Sylvia Jones says the status quo isn't working for Ontarians' health, saying “As we implement our bold plan, you will be connected to care when you need it most and where it's most convenient, whether that's closer to home in your community or even at home.”
The plan outlines a wide range of initiatives that will provide connected and convenient care in hospital emergency rooms, community settings like pharmacies and community organizations, long-term care homes, and at home.
The plan’s three pillars include getting “the right care in the right place”, promises faster access to care and the hiring of more health care workers.
Key initiatives in the plan include the following, some of which are being implemented immediately as the province takes action to address pressing issues, while other changes will take time but are still important to improving the care people receive:
Pillar One: The Right Care in the Right Place
- Expanding the role of pharmacists so that people can connect to care closer to home at their local pharmacy, and giving family doctors more time for appointments with people who need more specialized care for more serious concerns. As of January 1, 2023, pharmacists are able to prescribe medications for 13 common ailments to people across Ontario at no extra cost. As of January 29, 2023, nearly 40,000 assessments for minor ailments have been completed and over 31,000 prescriptions have been issued, with 65 per cent of pharmacies across all public health units having provided minor ailment services and increasing.
- Making it faster and easier for youth to connect to mental health and substance use support, primary care, social services and more by adding eight additional Youth Wellness Hubs to the 14 that are already operating across the province.
- Expanding team-based care through Ontario Health Teams to better connect and coordinate people’s care within their own community by improving their transition between various health care providers and ensuring their health records follow them wherever they go for care. Introducing new primary care networks under Ontario Health Teams and expanding team models of primary care with up to 1,200 more physicians being added to family health organizations.
Pillar Two: Faster Access to Care
- Making it easier and faster to get publicly funded surgeries and procedures by further leveraging the support of community surgical and diagnostic centres to eliminate surgical backlogs and reduce wait times. This includes investing more than $18 million in existing centres to cover care for thousands of patients, including more than 49,000 hours of MRI and CT scans, 4,800 cataract surgeries, 900 other ophthalmic surgeries, 1,000 minimally invasive gynecological surgeries and 2,845 plastic surgeries.
- Providing paramedics more flexibility to treat people who call 9-1-1 at home or on scene in the community rather than in emergency rooms. Successful 9-1-1 models of care have been expanded in more than 40 communities across the province, resulting in patients receiving the care they needed up to 17 times faster with 94 per cent of patients avoiding the emergency room in the days following treatment.
- Building almost 60,000 new and upgraded long-term care beds to help address wait lists for long-term care and ensure seniors are being cared for in the right place, where they can connect to more supports, activities and social activities. This is in addition to the more than 3,500 hospital beds added across the province in the last three years to ensure access to hospital care when it is needed.
Pillar Three: Hiring More Health Care Workers
- Moving forward with the largest medical school education expansion in more than a decade by adding 160 undergraduate seats and 295 postgraduate positions over the next five years. This expansion includes the new Toronto Metropolitan University’s School of Medicine that recently found its new home in Brampton.
- Expanding education and training opportunities for those interested in working in health care, including expanding the Learn and Stay grant that is helping over a dozen growing and underserved communities grow their health care workforce by covering the costs of tuition, books and other direct educational costs for postsecondary students who enroll in high-priority programs in return for working in those communities for up to two years after they graduate.
- Introducing new “As of Right” rules that will allow health care workers registered in other provinces and territories to immediately start working and caring for people without first having to register with one of Ontario’s health regulatory colleges.